Amusement parks and beach vacations are grand, but trust me when I say there is an alternative that engages the body, mind and spirit of teens and adults alike at the Gleneagles Resort in Perthshire, Scotland. Parents, prepare to be envious. Young men and women, prepare to have the time of your lives. Family travel in Scotland was never been this rugged before.
A comprehensive vacation
The activities list on the Youth Country Sports Passport program at the Gleneagles Resort almost seemed daunting at first. As I read the description to the girls, one in her early teens, the other poised to enter junior high, both brightened with enthusiastic expressions of disbelief: they were about to fly falcons, drive quarter-sized Land Rovers, spring arrows from a bow and learn to work with gundogs—all in one week.
Each of the program descriptions which introduced the principles of each activity had my girls bursting questions galore—and my husband as well. I became the translator, caught between excitement and concern, as I imagined my girls with guns, dogs, weapons and tiny four wheel drive vehicles careening around the Scottish countryside. The closer we looked, the more intriguing it became, and eventually, we succumbed to our curiosity, booking a week of family travel in early June. What had I gotten us into?
All of this world-class sportsmanship takes place on or near the 850 acres of the Gleneagles Resort property. With four restaurants, 232 rooms, and 26 suites, the spacious, well-appointed interiors are comfortable and stylish, giving an intimate feel for such a large hotel. The staff was thoroughly accommodating, providing a suite that allowed privacy for us as well as our girls, while still keeping our kids close. Check-in was polished and prompt, with individual itineraries, as requested, of the programs we had booked prior to the trip clearly posted on a calendar.
Teens off the road
The most popular activity within the range of activities provided by the Passport program was, by a large margin, the off road driving skills lesson. Expert instructors delivered lessons in responsible driving to each participant, outfitted individually in quarter-sized Land Rovers built especially for the resort and equipped with remote shut-off controls. Even though they weren’t needed in our case, others exhibited their importance in providing a safe track for all. The girls could have done this every day of the week if we had accommodated them, and were disappointed when the experience was over—at least until we moved on to the next sport.
The sport of kings and other adventures
Known as the sport of kings, Falconry sparked interest in both girls, although my younger daughter flinched frequently during the early part of the activity. The instructor was appropriately attentive, calming her nerves and building her confidence so that by the end of the lesson she was smiling at the beautiful creatures she had learned so much about.
My older daughter loved the fly fishing adventure, as well as the archery range instruction, earning many beaming glances from her father while gaining confidence and respect for the tools of each sport. My younger daughter adored working with the gundogs, learning commands and executing “dog and girl” team skills while sneaking in an extra pat on the head for her favorite Labrador. All activities at the resort are overseen by staff thoroughly trained and experienced in their related fields. We all felt quite relaxed despite many of these “never-ever” activities being outside of our current comfort zones.
Try relaxing and local site seeing too
Everyone enjoyed the two indoor swimming pools, a relaxing change of pace from the busy Passport activities. When downtime was essential, the girls retired to a retreat created especially for teens. Stocked with games, toys, Xbox 360 Kinect and internet-connected computers, it was a great way to wind down from all the excitement while we kicked back and enjoyed a massage in the spa and a cocktail in The Bar, followed by a fabulous dinner at Andrew Fairlie.
We added a trip to Drummond Castle and shopped our hearts out on the high streets of Perth, visiting countless antique shops, woolen goods dealers, leatherwork shops, and art galleries. A Charlie Bear from Watson’s on High Street and a stylish leather bag and jewelry from Pretty Things on Bridge Lane were among our most treasured three-dimensional souvenirs. The Classic Scottish Give Company also offers elegant gifts that embrace Scotland’s finest talent and resources.
Gleneagles provided the perfect combination of activities for our family. The Outdoor Sport Passport offered a menu of outings few are privileged to experience, allowing the girls to explore their own individual physical, mental and emotional boundaries within the safety of organized sport. That left us with some time to either watch their progress, or indulge in golf, equestrian and social activities of our own. This was truly a learning experience for us all, nurturing our daughters’ knowledge of classic outdoor sports, and it taught us how to calmly and safely let them stretch their wings. Ah, they grow up so soon!
K. L. Turner is a freelance writer with roots in Illinois, Colorado, Idaho and Florida’s left coast. She writes with academic authority on all things water and with 3D experience about travel, wine and sailing. Follow her on Twitter @turnerkat